In South Carolina, you can claim self-defense if you have been charged with homicide or some other form of assault. It is an affirmative defense that you will use before a trial even starts. If you have been charged with a gun-related crime, the Greenville criminal defense attorneys at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC can help you with a vigorous legal defense.
How the Stand Your Ground Law Works in South Carolina
South Carolina’s “Stand Your Ground” law puts various doctrines into one statute that relate to self-defense, whether they are in your home or outside your home:
- The “castle doctrine,” which states that one does not have a duty to retreat when defending themselves inside their own home
- Self-defense laws that allow you to use force in defense of yourself, others, and your property
South Carolina’s laws are broader than the self-defense rights that you may have had through common law. The state expanded these rights in its Protection of Persons and Property Act, which was passed in 2006.
Before this law was passed, you would have had a duty to retreat from a potential attack before you used deadly force against the attacker. Now, you may potentially have the right to hold your ground in self-defense or defense of others if you have a reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm.
Your Rights to Self-Defense in South Carolina
Here are some of your legal rights under South Carolina law:
- If someone has forcibly or unlawfully entered your home, it is presumed that you are in fear of death or great bodily harm when you use force to defend yourself.
- If you are somewhere where you legally have a right to be, you have the right to stand your ground and not retreat.
The Stand Your Ground law gives you immunity from the following:
- Criminal prosecution for the use of force
- Civil lawsuits filed by the person injured when you used force
Establishing Self-Defense at the Outset of Your Case
This immunity is absolute. If the court establishes that the Stand Your Ground law applies, you cannot be prosecuted at all, and you will not need to stand trial. First, the court will need to consider whether the law applies and that you are, in fact, immune from charges.
At the outset of the legal process, the court will hold a Stand Your Ground hearing dedicated specifically to your self-defense immunity. If you can validly show that you acted in self-defense, you will not be subject to any further criminal prosecution. In actuality, this will be your own trial before a trial. If you obtain a favorable legal result here, your legal process will be over.
Therefore, it is essential to prepare extensively for the Stand Your Ground hearing with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
How to Prove that You Were Acting in Self-Defense
In South Carolina, you will need to prove the following elements to establish your own defense:
- You did not do anything to bring on the attack against which you were defending yourself (for example, you did not instigate the attacker).
- You believed that you were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.
- A reasonable person would have had the same belief as you based on the circumstances.
- You had no other probable means of avoiding the danger (here, avoiding the danger does not mean that you have to retreat from it).
Once you have claimed that you were acting in self-defense, the state will need to show that you did not meet the elements listed above. Still, you will need your own evidence to show that you were acting in self-defense because the state will try hard to show that you either acted unreasonably or did something to bring on the danger yourself.
Thus, your lawyer may need to show that you were acting in self-defense when it is questioned. They can use the following evidence that can show that you had the legal right to use force:
- Eyewitness testimony from people who saw what you saw before using force
- Video camera footage that shows the incident or that someone entered your home unlawfully
- Testimony from a psychological expert about how you will have perceived a particular threat
- Expert witness testimony that a certain type of behavior can cause serious bodily injury or deadly harm
If you are facing homicide charges, you will face serious consequences. Your freedom and future are at stake. However, the state must prove the charges against you beyond a reasonable doubt. You need a lawyer to help tell your side of the story, especially when your actions were warranted by your reasonable belief of imminent harm.
Contact a Greenville Criminal Defense Attorney Today
The attorneys at Bannister, Wyatt & Stalvey, LLC in Greenville believe that everyone deserves the strongest legal defense possible when you have been charged with a crime. Our criminal defense lawyers represent clients who are charged with homicides and other types of violent crime, and will leave no stone unturned on your behalf. To speak with a self-defense attorney, you can send us a message online or call us today at 864-920-2709. Our trial attorneys can take your case as far as it needs to go.
Stand Your Ground Law FAQs
What happens if you draw a gun but do not shoot someone in self-defense?
There is a loophole in the law that means that you can face legal consequences. There have been bills proposed to close that loophole.
What happens if I am not successful at the stand your ground hearing?
Then, you will need to go to trial on the charges against you because the prosecutor can proceed.
Is self-defense limited to the use of a gun?
No. Self-defense means that you can use whatever type of force is necessary to deal with the imminent threat.